We caught up with Theatre Re‘s artistic director, Guillaume Pigé, to find out a little more about his company’s new production, Birth, which opens this Thursday, 10 January, at Shoreditch Town Hall as part of London International Mime Festival.
Can you tell us briefly what Birth is about?
Birth is the story of Sue, Katherine and Emily, three generations of women from the same family whose lives are part of an invisible web they help to weave. It traces their journey of self-discovery, acceptance and hope.
The production is partly inspired by the field of psychogenealogy. Could you explain what this is for people who might be unfamiliar with it?
Psychogenealogy is about recognizing parallels between our own lives and the lives of our ancestors, and how issues or traumas might have been subconsciously passed down from one generation to the next. By understanding that we are born into a tightly woven network of relationships, psychogenealogy begins to unravel the power of the family, its history, its narratives and its secrets.
A book that really inspired us throughout the develomment process was The Ancestor’s Syndrome by Anne Ancelin-Schutzenberger.
Birth was also inspired by interviews with women. How did these shape the production?
Following on from our discovery of psychogenealogy, we explored the idea of secrets in families. We all drew our family trees and realised that regardless of our origins, every tree had one thing in common: pregnancy loss and how little we knew about it.
It was only later that we discovered that in the UK it is estimated that one in four pregnancies end in loss, either during pregnancy or birth. It is part of the realm of the ‘unspoken’, or the ‘unvoiced’. It is buried. Surprisingly, ‘losing a baby’ is also something that came up in our improvisation sessions without us consciously looking for it.
Pregnancy loss became the shared secret of Sue, Katherine and Emily. We started collaborating with Anyone EveryMum (an organisation supporting women and parents’ ‘wellbeing during their journey through birth’). We also interviewed and collaborated with women who experienced pregnancy loss.
This work allowed us to raise the stakes of the piece and find connections with the real human experience. It also helped us to structure the journeys of our three women and how they come together to support and give each other strength.
How do you hope audiences are affected by the piece? Is there a message you would like them to take away?
I hope for people to come out of the theatre feeling uplifted and reminded about the beauty and extraordinary fragility of life.
In the show’s trailer you use a sheet to create some powerful images onstage. Can you tell us about the significance of this prop?
I love working with objects. I find them so powerfully evocative. They are able to communicate on so many layers in the most intricate and direct ways. I could be talking a lot about the role of the sheet in the piece but it would be spoiling it… Come and see for yourself!
This show is part of London International Mime Festival 2019. Which other performances from the festival are you excited about?
I am very excited about the whole programme and it is the one thing I look out for every year! I have already booked tickets for BACKUP and ANYWHERE !
Theatre Re’s Birth play at Shoreditch Town Hall from Thursday 10 – Sunday 13 January 2019. Click here to book tickets.